Failed Future Forecast YKTTW Discussion

Failed Future Forecast
Predictions of the future don't match up to what happens in the predicted year.
(permanent link) added: 2013-01-11 20:18:31 sponsor: StarSword (last reply: 2013-06-04 15:30:56)

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Author's note: This is intended to address a perceived missing supertrope or index for predictions of the future that don't happen, but don't really fall under The Great Politics Mess-Up or I Want My Jetpack. Posted it after having an epiphany on the trope title during a discussion in the Lost and Found.

Rolling Updates, Needs a Better Description

"Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen."

People have been trying to predict the future for as long as human civilization, but in most cases they have been partially or completely wrong when the year in question rolls around.

This is a particularly Omnipresent Trope in near-future Speculative Fiction, since the readers (and author) are usually still around when the prediction fails. If the creator is still alive they may even offer an official explanation.

Before adding examples, please make sure it doesn't fit better under one of the subtropes, which include:

  • Apocalypse Day Planner: The world continues to exist despite many predictions to the contrary. Two subtypes common enough for their own tropes are:
    • Mayan Doomsday: As should be fairly obvious by now, the world didn't end on December 21, 2012.
    • Millennium Bug: With some exceptions, our computers did not all crash and burn on January 1, 2000.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: In major cities the first half is often true, but the latter continues to be unpopular.
  • Future Spandex: Continues to be much less popular than predicted.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: A major historical event is not foreseen, making the prediction impossible. The classic example is writers during the Cold War not predicting the breakup of the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union in 1989 and 1991 respectively.
  • I Want My Jetpack: Technological or scientific developments did not come to pass by the designated year.
  • History Marches On: Improved understanding of historical events renders the prediction outdated.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Fashionable hairstyles, clothing, architecture, and so on fail to change as rapidly as they do in Real Life.
  • Science Marches On: Improved understanding of science renders the prediction outdated.
  • Space Clothes: As with Future Spandex, above.
  • Technology Marches On: Advancements in technology render the prediction outdated.

The fact that the prediction isn't true may be Hilarious in Hindsight or Harsher in Hindsight. See also Time Marches On, which tends more towards reactions of current audiences (e.g. a work becomes unreadable due to Values Dissonance).



  • In a series of commercials for PrimeCo Wireless circa 1997-98, a man from the future pretty much says that by his time there won't be any other phones but PrimeCo. The company was broken up and sold off to various other telecom companies starting in 1999.

[[folder:Anime and Manga]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]] [[/folder]]

  • K. A. Applegate's Remnants series has Earth struck by a planet-killing asteroid in 2011. Though funnily enough a much more minor prediction in the book did come true: that the United States would have a black president in 2011 (though a man, not a woman).
  • The Space Odyssey Series predicted lunar bases and manned missions to Jupiter by the first year of the 21st Century. More egregiously, the movie predicted that we would be flown there by PanAm, which went out of business in 1991.
  • George Orwell's 1984: Although there are some concepts in the novel that we'd be wise to heed as milder versions have crept into Real Life ("Orwellian" political euphemisms or doublespeak, control of information and "the memory hole", increased surveillance and "Total Information Awareness", perpetual war and war footing, etc.), the developed world in 1984 wasn't divided into three totalitarian superstates (although the Third World, in terms of Cold War proxy wars, bore some similarity to that geographical southern quadrant constantly fought over by the three big powers as described in the novel), and the West at any rate wasn't living anywhere near the level of oppression as described in the setting of Airstrip One (Britain), Oceania.
  • Both the book and the movie of H. G. Wells's The Shape of Things to Come predicted that World War II would lead to the collapse of civilization and the rise of a technocratic new world order. Among Wells's howlers was the prediction that the German army would be fought to a standstill by Poland.
  • The predictions Nostradamus made in The Prophecies were, as previously mentioned, usually pretty darn vague, but he did have a few unambiguous ones. For instance, his very specific prophecy for July 1999 -- he could only have dated it more precisely if he'd specified which day of the month -- which completely and utterly failed to happen. Paris was not, in fact, smitten by winged terror from the skies. Or if it was, they kept quiet about it.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
  • Star Trek: The Original Series predicted that Earth would suffer the Eugenics Wars in the 1990s, during which Khan Noonien Singh would come to prominence. After the designated decade came and went with no Eugenics Wars, the novelverse retconned them to have taken place in secret.
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: "In the year 1987, NASA launched the last of America's deep space probes. ..." Granted, we haven't sent any manned probes past Earth orbit since Apollo 17 in 1972, but we're still sending unmanned ones.

[[folder:Professional Wrestling]]
  • The New Breed, a 1986 tag team who claimed to be from 2002, said (among other things) that Dusty Rhodes was President of the US in the future. They also thought that LazorTron (Hector Gurerro) was real because in their time there really were robots.

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • One of the first sections of The Mario Paint Player's Guide is "Mario Paint: A History", which is a brief overview of art, animation, and music, with an accompanying timeline of artists and works. The final part of this section is "The 90s", which features the following timeline:
    • 1992--Mario Paint Introduced
    • 1993--Mario Paint Player's Guide
    • 199?--First Mario Paint Exhibit
    • 200?--Mario Paint Institute Opens
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